“We would like to recommend the Government of Albania… raise awareness of a child’s right to participate in the family and in the community.” As the statement was read out, I wanted to shout out loud, to get up and dance, but restrained myself to a slight, UN-appropriate smile. How fitting these words should come in the year we celebrate the 25th birthday of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The occasion was the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Albania by the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva. The recommendation – spoken by a representative of the Government of Slovenia – had been a long time in the making.
The UPR is a unique peer review process through which the members of the HRC review the human rights obligations of all 193 UN Member States. Following their review, each country is required to respond to the recommendations made by their peers.
World Vision influences the UPR in a number of different ways. They include through contributing to the consultations the country under review carries out when preparing its report; raising child rights concerns and ensuring these issues are included in the country’s report; submitting written reports and recommendations to make sure other States are aware of the main issues of concern; and carrying out advocacy and lobbying activities to persuade States to present particular recommendations during the review.
Following the review, World Vision looks to support national Governments in their implementation of recommendations and continues to lobby them in this respect. Increasingly, World Vision offices are empowering children to be involved in all stages of the process.
This video outlines how children from Albania – working alongside World Vision and Save the Children – influenced the UPR process by lobbying governments on issues of importance to Albanian children, including the right to participation guaranteed to them in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Unquestionably, the work towards full acceptance of child participation in decisions that affect them must be driven at the grass roots level – and by children themselves. Children in families, schools and communities must be supported to consistently speak out and bring about change where it is most needed.
As the Convention on the Rights of the Child marks its 25th anniversary, we are seeing that in places of international justice and accountability – those mysterious halls of power in Geneva, New York and elsewhere – once distant and closed to all but the most powerful, children’s voices are now being heard.
These places and processes, which have the potential to lift up and empower local and national efforts, are being challenged to change their attitudes and fully open their doors to the youngest members of society.
Change is possible, is happening, and is being brought about by children themselves.
About the author
Jennifer Philpot-Nissen is Senior Advisor, Human Rights, Advocacy and Justice for Children, at World Vision International.